Them Which Have The Rule Over You

Posted by on Apr 6, 2008

By Pastor Mike Withem

First Baptist Church of Ranson, WV

April 6, 2008

Sunday Morning

“Them Which Have The Rule Over You”

Scripture Text: Hebrews 13:7-9,17



A.   I want to begin this morning by saying that I am extremely thankful to God for the privilege of serving as your pastor for the past 32 years.

1. I absolutely love being a pastor.

2. I love preaching and teaching God’s Word.

3. I love everything else (well almost) that is involved in being a pastor.

4. I can honestly say, this morning, that there is absolutely nothing that I would rather be doing with my life that what I am doing right now.


B.   The reason I wanted to begin by telling you this is because for the next few minutes I want to talk to you about the relationship that ought to exist between a pastor and his congregation.


C.   You may have noticed when Bro. Earl read our text, this morning, that twice in this passage we find the expression, “them which have the rule over you.”

1. We find it, first of all, in Vrs. 7.

2. Then we find it again in Vrs. 17.

3. As we consider this expression this morning, there are at least three questions that I want us to answer.

4. First of all,…


I.       Who Are “Them Which Have The Rule Over” Us?


A.   The phrase “them which have the rule” comes from just one Greek word (hegeomai), which literally means “those who lead” or “those who command (with official authority).”

1. Of course, there are different kinds of leaders.

2. For example, there are political leaders.

3. (Illus.- As you know, our nation is in the middle of a presidential campaign. There are at least three candidates, one Republican and two Democrats, all who want to be our next president. The decision that the voters will make come November will be a very important decision, because whoever is elected will become the political leader of the most powerful nation in the world.)

4. Not only are there political leaders, but there are also military leaders.

5. Of course, our president also serves as the Commander and Chief of our nation’s military.

6. However, under the president, there are a whole slew of Generals who oversee our nations military.

7. According to Wikipedia, there are currently a total of 27 four star generals (4 – USMC, 11 – USA, 12 – USAF).

8. There are also a total of 11 Admirals (10 – USN, 1 – USCG).

9. All of these Generals and Admirals serve under President Bush and oversee our nations military.

10.   And so, when it comes to leaders, there are political leaders and there are military leaders.


B.   There is another kind of leaders who are extremely important, especially for those of us who are children of God, and they are our spiritual leaders.

1. When the writer of Hebrews admonished us to “remember them which have the rule over” us, he was not talking about our political or military leaders, but rather he was talking about our spiritual leaders.

2. To be more specific, he was talking about the office of pastor-teacher.

3. Turn with me, for just a moment, to Eph. 4:11-12, “11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”

4. While “apostles” and “prophets” were only given to the early church, God still gives “pastors and teachers” to His churches today.

5. How do I know that the writer of Hebrews was talking about pastors and teachers?

6. Because of something he said in Vrs. 7 of our text, “7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God:”

7. That’s what pastors do (their primary duty), they speak (preach and teach) “the word of God.”


C.   Not only is the duty of pastors to teach the Word of God, God has also given them the spiritual oversight of His churches.

1. This is why pastors are sometimes referred to as “overseers.”

2. Turn with me to Acts 20:28.

3. Paul was meeting for the last time with a group of pastors (called elders this passage) from the church at Ephesus.

4. Notice what he said to them in Vrs. 28, “28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

5. The word “overseers” is translated from a Greek word (episkopos) which literally means “superintendent.”

6. And so, in addition to preaching and teaching the Word, it is a pastor’s responsibility to superintend (oversee) the church as a whole, which includes its members as well as its ministries.


D.   Which brings us back to my original question.

1. When the writer of Hebrews admonished us to “remember” those who “have the rule over” us, who was he talking about?

2. He was talking about our spiritual leaders.

3. To be more specific, he was talking about those who occupy the office of pastor-teacher, those to whom God has given the responsibility of preaching and teaching the Word of God, as well as overseeing the church as a whole.

4. Which raises yet another question…


II.      What Is Our Responsibility Towards “Them Which Have The Rule Over” Us.


A.   Our responsibility is two-fold.

1. First of all, it is our responsibility to “OBEY” them.

2. Look again at the first part of Vrs. 17 of our text, “17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:”

3. The word “obey” here comes from a Greek word (peitho) that literally means to submit or to yield to authority.

4. When the Bible admonishes us to “obey them that have rule over” us, it simply means that we are to submit or yield ourselves to the authority of those spiritual leaders (pastors and teachers) whom God has placed over us.


B.   Now before I say anything else, let me make something very clear.

1. We are not talking about a blind obedience, here.

2. (Illus.- When the followers of the late Rev. Jim Jones obeyed his command to take their own lives by drinking the poisoned kool-aid, that was blind obedience. They never questioned him. They never asked the question, “Is this right?” or “Is this what God would have us to do?” or “Is this consistent with Biblical teaching?” Like robots they just did what he told them to do. That was blind obedience.”)

3. We should never obey anyone blindly, not even our most trusted spiritual leaders.

4. Why not?

5. Because they are human.

6. Because they are fallible.

7. Because they are sinners just like us, and as sinners, they are susceptible to both sin and error.


C.   Did you realize that the Bible even admonishes us to not trust the spirits, but rather to try them by the Word of God?

1. Listen to 1 John 4:1, “1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

2. Now you know that if the Bible admonishes us to “try the spirits,” then we most certainly ought to do the same with our spiritual leaders.

3. How do we “try” our spiritual leaders?

4. It’s really very simple, we just compare what they tell us with what the Word of God teaches.

5. If they don’t match up, then we need to hold them accountable!


D.   However, having said that, as long as our spiritual leaders are true to the Word of God, both in their teaching and their personal conduct, then we should submit to their authority.

1. Listen to what the Bible says in 1 Thes. 5:12-13, “12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”

2. The Greek word (hegeomai) translated “esteem” here literally means to consider or to acknowledge one’s authority.


3. And so, what Paul is saying here is that if our spiritual leaders have passed the test of leadership, then we should acknowledge their authority over us and submit to their spiritual leadership.

4. And so, our first responsibility towards our spiritual leaders is to obey them.


E.   Our second responsibility is to “FOLLOW” them.

1. In other words, follow their example.

2. Notice again Vrs. 7 of our text, “7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”

3. One of the things that I have learned as a result of 35 years of being a pastor, is that the best way to lead a church is by example.

4. Turn with me to 1 Pet. 5:1-3, “1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

5. I have known a few pastors over the years who’s philosophy of leadership was to “brow beat” his congregation into doing what he wanted them to do.

6. Now don’t misunderstand what I am about to say, because sometimes pastors have to preach hard messages because they are the truth and they need to be preached.

7. However, having said that, clearly the best way for a pastor to lead his church is by his own example.


F.    This is why he needs to be consist in his own life.

1. I used to wonder why God put Vrs. 8 or our text where He did, then it dawned on me that because pastors represent the Lord Jesus Himself, they need to demonstrate in their lives the same kind of consistency that Christ demonstrated in His own life.

2. Notice again what it says about our Lord, “8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Vrs. 8)

3. Pastors who consistently preach the Word and also live out the Word in their daily lives are worthy of emulating, and should be emulated.

4. Do you remember what Paul told the believers in Corinth in 1 Cor. 11:1? He said, “1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”


G.   And so, our responsibility towards our spiritual leaders is two fold.

1. We should “obey” them.

2. We should “follow” them.


H.   There is one more question that I want us to answer this morning, and that is…


III.    Why Is It So Important That We Obey Our Spiritual Leaders And Follow Their Example?


A.   Vrs. 17 of our text answers this question.

1. It is important because “they watch for” our “souls.”

2. Look at that verse again, “17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls.”

3. What does it mean when it says that “they watch for” our “souls”?

4. It simply means that they are given the responsibility (by God) to watch out for (care for) the spiritual welfare of their congregations.

5. A good pastor will take this responsibility very seriously.

6. Turn with me to 2 Cor. 12:14-15, and let’s notice a wonderful example of a pastor who took this responsibility seriously, it is Paul writing to the church at Corinth, “14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: {in other words, not what you can do for me, but what I can do for you} for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. 15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you;”

7. Why should we “obey” and “follow” our spiritual leaders?

8. Because “they watch for” our “souls.”

9. They have our spiritual welfare at heart.


B.   But someone asks, “Why do I need someone to watch out for me spiritually?”

1. Simply because living this life is like walking through a spiritual minefield.

2. Life is full of deadly spiritual land mines that we must beware of and avoid, if at all possible.

3. For example, life is full of doctrinal land mines.

4. Almost everywhere we turn we encounter false teachers who are preaching and teaching things contrary to the Word of God.

5. Notice again the admonition found in the first part of Vrs. 9 of our text, “9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;”

6. Paul put it like this in Eph. 4:14, “14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

7. It is a fact that by paying attention to the Bible teaching of a good pastor, one can avoid being deceived by false teachers, thus avoid stepping on these doctrinal land mines.

8. There are many other types of land mines as well.

9. The point is, we need our spiritual leaders watching out for us because of these dangers.


C.   (Illus.- There have been many times over the years that I have been called upon for help by various members of this congregation who had gotten themselves into trouble. I don’t know how many times I have heard them say something similar to this, “Pastor, if I had only listened to you, this would have never happened!” IF I HAD ONLY LISTENED TO YOU!)



A.   What have we learned this morning?

1. First of all, we learned that God has placed spiritual leaders (pastors) over us for the purpose of teaching us the Word of God and overseeing the church as a whole.

2. Secondly, we learned that it is our responsibility to “obey” them and to “follow” their example.

3. Thirdly, we learned that ignoring them could result in our stepping on a spiritual land mine, resulting in much harm.


B.   In closing, let me say this.

1. God has given this church, not one, but two pastors.

2. We are not perfect pastors, but I know my heart, and I believe I know Pastor Cawley’s heart, and I know that both of us love you with all of our heart and want nothing but God’s very best for you.

3. We take our responsibility very seriously.

4. However, we realize that our ministries will only benefit you to the extent that you are willing to heed the admonitions given in our passage this morning.